PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Central Aroostook residents have greater access to health care thanks to a new walk-in clinic that officially opened Friday in Wal-Mart.
During a brief ceremony Friday afternoon, the clinic opened at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 781 Main St.
Operated by Horizons, a subsidiary of The Aroostook Medical Center, the clinic is the result of a partnership of TAMC, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and the retail giant.
The new clinic will provide basic health care services including routine physicals, vaccinations and treatment for minor injuries, including sore throats, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections and earaches.
Dave Peterson, president and chief executive officer of TAMC, said the clinic “provides access to the kind of convenient, affordable health care many of our customers are seeking.”
The opening of the clinic comes on the heels of the August opening of North Street Healthcare, also operated by TAMC. The new family health care center and medical mall includes a walk-in care clinic to treat minor medical concerns.
Peterson noted that the Wal-Mart clinic would work with the clinic at North Street Healthcare to broaden the spectrum of health care services available in the area.
The clinic at Wal-Mart is being touted as appealing to those who need a health care provider after normal business hours or at other times when a primary care provider is not available. Officials believe it will be a resource for those who do not have a personal physician.
“We think the clinic will appeal to busy families, those who do not have a medical home and others who value convenience,” added Peterson.
Health care officials believe that the Wal-Mart clinic and the one on North Street will cut down on the number of people who use the emergency department for routine medical care, as well as at night or on weekends. The Wal-Mart clinic typically has faster service and is less expensive than the emergency department.
The clinic in Presque Isle will be overseen by Dr. Roy Frieband.
“The clinic at Wal-Mart will be staffed by licensed physician assistants and family nurse practitioners who are committed to providing excellent service,” he said.
Wal-Mart announced in June that it would be opening the clinics in Maine. In early November, a clinic opened at the Stillwater Avenue Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bangor. Wal-Mart officials said they expected to open clinics in Brewer and Palmyra next month. A clinic in Waterville will open in 2010.
Clinicians at the Wal-Marts can perform physical exams required for participation in sports, administer tetanus shots and flu vaccines and test for high blood sugar, strep throat, urinary tract infections and pregnancy. They will prescribe some medications, but not narcotics or psychoactive drugs.
Karen Stewart, 43, of Presque Isle, has three children, who all have a primary care physician. Still, she admitted at the Wal-Mart on Saturday, there have been many instances where she has had to take her children to the emergency room for care.
“Most doctors are not available on the weekends, which is always when my kids seem to come down with ear infections,” she said. “I think this will be good for the community, especially because it is so convenient. If my child does get an ear infection on the weekend, I don’t have to do much running around. I can get him diag-nosed here at Wal-Mart and get the prescription filled right at the store’s pharmacy.”
Stewart’s friend Lynn Mitchell, of Caribou, agreed. She also thought it would be a good resource for children who need physicals so they can play school sports.
“Sometimes, student athletes only have a small window of time to get those done, and doctors around here are busy,” said Mitchell. “It seems like you could get it done here pretty quickly and easily.”